'Coming back is not easy': Reggie Jackson recalls racism he faced in 1967 Alabama

'Coming back is not easy': Reggie Jackson recalls racism he faced in 1967 Alabama

Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson was the 1973 American League MVP, a two-time World Series MVP and 14-time all-star. 

He was dubbed "Mr. October" for his hitting during the playoffs. 

But before all that he played as a minor leaguer on a team in Birmingham, Ala., in 1967.

On Thursday night, during a broadcast of a game between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals at Rickwood Field in Birmingham to honour the Negro Leagues, Jackson offered up a raw remembrance of the racism he faced as a Black player there 57 years ago. 

"Coming back is not easy," Jackson said.

"The racism … when I played here. The difficulty of going through different places where we travelled. Fortunately, I had a manager and had players on the team who helped me get through it. But I wouldn't wish it on anybody.

"People said to me today, I spoke, and they said 'You think you're a better person? Do you think you won when you played here and conquered?' I said, 'You know, I would never… want to do it again.

"I walked into restaurants and they would point at me and say, 'The [censored] can't eat here.' I would go to a hotel and they'd say, 'The [censored] can't stay here.

"We went to [Kansas City Athletics owner] Charlie Finley's country club for a welcome home dinner and they pointed me out with the n-word: 'He can't come in here.' Finley marched the whole team out. Finally, they let me in there. He said, 'We're going to go to the diner and eat hamburgers. We'll go where we're wanted.'

"Fortunately, I had a manager in Johnnie McNamara that if I couldn't eat in a place, nobody would eat. We'd get food to travel. I couldn't stay in a hotel. They'd drive to the next hotel and find a place where I could stay."

Jackson, who is 78, made the poignant comments during the first regular-season Major League Baseball game to be played at Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park in the United States.

The game honoured the Negro Leagues, which were made up of Black players who were excluded from the majors. In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke MLB's colour barrier when he debuted for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Rickwood was also the historic home of the Birmingham Black Barons, which played in the Negro Leagues between the 1920s and the 1960s — and that included baseball legend Willie Mays, who died on Tuesday at the age of 93.